8 Nov 2010

Most pig farmers pass welfare audit

1:38 pm on 8 November 2010

Nearly all of the pig farmers assessed for a new welfare labelling scheme have passed an independent audit.

But that is not going to satisfy animal welfare groups, as farmers whose meat products can carry the new PigCare Accreditation label will include those still using sow crates and farrowing stalls.

The use of crates and stalls has been condemned by animal welfare groups who want them banned.

Campaign director of animal welfare group SAFE, Hans Kriek, says the labelling scheme is meaningless, because accredited farms can still use the crates and stalls that animal welfare groups regard as cruel.

The Pork Industry Board says 115 of 123 farms assessed so far have passed the audit, with about a dozen to be checked.

New Zealand Pork chief executive Sam McIvor says it estimates more than 95% of the country's pigs are on farms that have passed the audit which looks at the competency and skill of the farmers, how they handle their pigs and the animals' condition and behaviour.

Mr McIvor says the audit also looks at the environment and whether there is a suitable space and temperature and whether the pigs have adequate feed and water.

The main things the farmers have had to improve have been safety improvements to buildings and improving the nutritional regimes of the animals, he says.

Mr McIvor says meat from farms using sow crates and stalls can carry the accreditation label because their use is permitted under the current pig welfare code, although there are moves to further restrict their use.

The code has been under review and Mr McIvor says if restrictions are introduced in a revised code, due by the end of the year, that will be taken into account in the audits.